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Lady Africa wins...finally

By LARA PICKFORD-GORDON Saturday, February 18 2012

click on pic to zoom in
Fiery limbo: Dancers from North West Laventille Cultural Movement limbo under a fire-lit bar during their performance at Kaisorama, Queen's Park Savan...
Fiery limbo: Dancers from North West Laventille Cultural Movement limbo under a fire-lit bar during their performance at Kaisorama, Queen's Park Savan...

AFTER 23 long years of trying, in which she made the finals 21 times only to lose at the final hurdle, Leslie-Ann Bristow, who goes by the sobriquet Lady Africa, finally won the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCA) National Extempo championship on Thursday night.

And in so doing, Bristow wrote her name in the history book by becoming the first woman to win the National Extempo title. The show was held at the Queen’s Park Savannah. The show also included the finals of the Social and Political commentary categories. Missing this year was the Humourous Category and TUCO has said this will be held after the Carnival Season.

She emerged winner this year in an entertaining and fierce verbal duel with Brian London, who is among the finalists for the National Calypso Monarch title up for grabs tomorrow at Dimanche Gras.

“I feel happy, it has finally happened. I’ve been knocking and knocking. It has finally happened,” an elated Bristow told Newsday backstage after she was announced as the winner. There were eight finalists at the start and in the preliminary round, each had to sing four verses on a topic they selected from a box. Myron B (Myron Bruce) had to sing on “Viagra”, Nestor Boxill on “More Local Music On Radio”, Joseph Vautor La Placeliere (Lingo) sang on “Protect our nation’s children”, Brian London’s topic was “King Soul win the crown in jail”, Francois Ottley’s was “Kamla only flying”, Neil Baptiste sang on, “Ah Cyar Take Horn” and 2011 extempo monarch Sheldon John had “Like Jack (Warner) in a box”. Lady Africa sang about, “100 years of Calypso.”

From the eight competitors, four were chosen for the second round in which they were paired and then sang four verses on a topic. This round provided the audience at the Grand Stand with the first picong of the competition, with Lady Africa and Brian London squaring off on the topic, “I am a Bacchanalist.”

Lady Africa fired the first salvo calling herself a queen and London a “bacchanalist”. London did not respond to this and she continued to take digs at him. London retorted that as a bacchanalist he could, “take a little wine on Lady Africa.” She came back with a quick repartee and advised him against his, “old dry up wine” and not to try anything since her husband was waiting off stage.

Myron B and Lingo had to sing on “Lord Nelson” – Robert Nelson, the veteran Calypsonian to whom Thursday’s show was dedicated. Myron B held his own but visually-challenged, Lingo sought to school him telling him he was giving wrong information and promoting inaccuracy. In the end, the judges chose Lady Africa and London for the final round. The cancellation of topics at this stage meant “open war”, Master of Ceremonies and a past extempo finalist Wendell Etienne told the audience. Lady Africa was confident from the first verse telling London that his behaviour on stage showed he was hiding. London delivered the first insult describing her facial expression as looking like she swallowed a dinosaur.

The two traded barbs and Lady Africa declared that she would win the war and telling London he must have a good vocabulary and be good in the word business. London in his retort told her she had “buss” and made a gesture as if there was an unpleasant smell and told her she should pass by Pennywise. This did not deter Lady Africa who told him the bad smell was coming from his mouth. She won the competition and $100,000 while London got $70,000.

Bristow said she had been competing since 1989. “This will be my 23rd season,” she said with a broad smile. She has been in 21 finals. Bristow said she became involved in extempo because she always liked word play and rhymes.

“In 1988 I was looking at an extempo final on television and said, ‘I can do that’. So in 1989, I took my very scared, nervous self and here I am today,” the well-spoken performer said. Bristow was extremely happy because for many years she was the only woman in the competition and the only woman to make the finals.

She praised her female predecessor in the extempo field Rendy Darling.

“I feel happy for women. This was like the final glass ceiling. We have done Calypso, we have won the Road March. We have done the Soca Monarch. We have done Chutney and now we have done extempo.”

The categories competition was keen with youthful artistes dominating. Kurt Allen placed first in the Political Commentary category singing “Long Live Calypso.” Talented Heather MacIntosh second with “The Adjective” and third Neville Brown (Bunny B) with “Political Lightening.” There was a heavy drizzle during the show but this did not halt proceedings. In the Social Commentary category, Young King 2012 Duane O’Connor placed first with “The Hunt is On”, second place was Kurt Allen singing “When Will it end?” and third went to veteran Calypsonian Dr Hollis ‘Chalkdust’ Liverpool with “How’s dat?” First prize in the categories competition was $25,000, second place $15,000 and third $10,000. The show ended with Nelson wearing his trademark jumper suit and singing the popular “Meh Lover” which had the audience dancing as they exited the venue.

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